5 Simple Ways to Handle Nepotism in the Workplace

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Think your boss is giving opportunities to friends and family members over you? Here’s what to do.

May 16, 2019 6 min read

Dealing with nepotism in the workplace can be tough, especially if you’re the one on the short end of the stick. Nepotism, or the act of providing or receiving opportunities due to a family relationship or friendship, has a history that runs long and worldwide.

“Nepotism is a natural part of the human endowment,” says Robert Jones, a professor of Industrial-Organizational Psychology at Missouri State University. How it’s perceived is tied to culture, according to Jones. “In China and India, nepotism is a way of life and regarded positively.”

Nepotism generally has a negative association in western, individualistic countries such as the United States, particularly if the favored recipient isn’t qualified. Nepotism can damage a business by affecting employee morale, causing friction and resentment.

However, it isn’t necessarily an entirely negative practice. Hiring or promoting a relative can provide certain advantages. For instance, if the candidate has been groomed in the family business, then the person may bring valuable social and intellectual capital to the position. Jones points to a recent nepotism study on NCAA teams that shows that teams with nepotism (two or more family members as players or coaching on the same team) tend to perform better and win more games than those without it.

The bottom line: The way people respond to nepotism at work depends largely on the qualifications and self-awareness of the candidate in question, as well as transparency in the hiring process. If you find yourself in a work situation where nepotism is a flagrant problem that disrupts your workplace satisfaction and professional growth, here are five ways to cope.

Click through the slideshow to see the five ways to handle nepotism at work. 

Related: Did a Client ‘Suggest’ You Hire His Son? What to Do.

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